These days, more and more research is being conducted on games and game design for learning. In fact, two PHD dissertations have been written on Gamestar Mechanic. You can find them on our site here.
The first is written by Robert Torres at NYU in 2009. Torres studied how participating in a “learning ecology generated and mediated by Gamestar Mechanic” improves the player’s ability to foster systems-thinking. Torres breaks systems thinking down into subskills, talks about why systems thinking is important, and connects it explicitly to game design. It’s pretty cool stuff.
The next dissertation is written by Alex Games (his real last name, but pronounced gam-ez) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009. Games writes about how Gamestar Mechanic helps children learn language and literacy skills important for the 21st century. He also researches how children communicate using the “language of game” to help designers create more effective game-based learning environments. The connection between literacy and game design is a fascinating one. Be sure to check out the paper!
I’m especially interested in academic studies on games and learning. As a classroom teacher myself, it’s always a good feeling to know that a tool that I’m using is backed by research.
It’s always great to hear stories about families playing games (and playing Gamestar) together. Our friends over at Science Buddies keep a blog where parents sometimes post on their adventures in science with their kids. This week, a mom postedabout her sons and their growing interest in game design. The family is tackling the STEM challenge together, exploring tools like Scratch, GameMaker, and Gamestar Mechanic!
Here’s an excerpt about the kids’ experience with Gamestar:
I logged both of my kids in at Gamestar Mechanic one evening, just to see how they would respond to the interface—and to see if it really was as cool as it seemed like it might be. They sat side by side at different computers, each going through the story, and the excitement and enthusiasm was palpable. They loved it! As I moved around doing other things, I was hearing talk about “platform” games and “top down” games and “oh, I’m going to change the gravity this time!”
The whole post is very well-written and links to a number of resources. Check it out here.
We are happy to be linking up with Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program (OLP) this year. Global Kids is an awesome organization here in NYC that uses digital media to promote global awareness and youth civic engagement. From their website: “OLP integrates a youth development approach and international and public policy issues into youth media programs that build digital literacy, foster substantive online dialogues, develop resources for educators, and promote civic participation.” Basically, they are pretty fantastic.
So this school year, OLP is running it’s fifth season of high school internship program called Playing 4 Keeps (P4K). This time, among other activities, the P4K kids will design social impact games using Gamestar Mechanic and also learn a bunch about what happens behind the scenes of making games.
P4K keeps a blog detailing what they are working on each week with Gamestar Mechanic and other game design activities. Their most recent post includes reflection from the high schoolers themselves. Some of my favorite quotes from the kids include:
“Playing for Keeps has revolutionized the way I think about gaming as a whole… No longer will a game just be a game, but a transformed piece, an artistic creation, always with a purpose and always with a meaning.”
“Joining this program, I saw how games might have been built/made with various values in mind, and how it is not exactly due to a designer, but the perspective of a player that is what shapes it.”
“It’s fun and educational. IT’S FUNJACATIONAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Check out more of their posts here.